Altar Boyz: leave it at the altar

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By Kelly Thoreson
Photos by Emily Cooper (Arts Club)

Running jokes wear thin on the soles without the support of a real plot to the production

Four young and attractive Catholic boys and one Jewish man form a boy band called the Altar Boyz and tour to sing about God and Christian values: it could have been a pretty good sketch on Saturday Night Live, but it leaves something to be desired as a musical.

Altar Boyz parodies both boy bands and religious tours with all of the trills, over-enthusiasm, and abs that are to be expected, and is jam-packed with energy and songs that will be stuck in your head for days. What it’s missing, though, is a story.

Sure, there is the plot wherein the Altar Boyz try to save the souls of the audience and come to some understandings about themselves. However, this story doesn’t develop until near the end of the show, and very few of the songs actually contribute to any kind of plot. It always feels as though you are waiting for the story to really “start” — even after you have left the theatre.

Where there isn’t story, there is humour. There are a few gags that the show relies on, including the aforementioned boy band and religious group parodies, the irony of the presence of a single Jew in a Catholic singing group, as well as Mexican, addict, and gay stereotyping. While the jokes might get you laughing the first time they come around, they are not grounded in the story or in dynamic characters and feel hollow.

There is so much opportunity for social commentary to make the humour and story of Altar Boyz richer, but it is a missed opportunity. The diversity of the Altar Boyz — with an out-of-place Jew, a Mexican immigrant without a family, a recovering addict, and what the audience assumes is a closeted gay member — appears to be token and only there for the laughs. This gimmicky feel to the characters makes the jokes feel uncomfortable at times, like the audience is laughing at them instead of with them.

The two actors that really pull off the laughs are Geoff Stevens, who plays the flamboyant character of Mark, and Jeremy Crittenden, who portrays Matthew, the leader of the Altar Boyz. Both performers keep their energy at the over-the-top levels necessary to pull off a parody of boy bands and religious tour groups, which was arguably the most entertaining aspect of the show.

Shallow script and empty humour aside, the harmonies and synchronized steps of the Altar Boyz were impressive, and they had me pumped for at least a half hour of the show. It was enough fun to carry me to the end of a particularly lengthy YouTube video, but definitely not to the curtain of a 90-minute musical.